The links with examples are not working.
Yes, that's true. These old view cameras used long lenses with relatively wide apertures, which results in a very shallow depth of field. They couldn't just stop down, the film was far too slow. Because of this, they also had to use slow shutter speeds. So motion blur can be seen in anything that didn't hold absolutely still.
These lenses were also very poorly corrected, with pronounced vignetting and rapid sharpness falloff towards the edges, creating a sort of "tunnel" effect.
These things should be considered when shooting. They are very hard to imitate in an image that is already high quality - especially the shallow focus plane.
You can't just blur out-of-focus areas. Then it will just look like it's seen through frosted glass. Bokeh (as it's known) is a very complex optical phenomenon, and Photoshop doesn't really have any filters that do a convincing job here. There used to be a plugin from Alien Skin called "Bokeh" that worked really well. I think it is now assimilated into a larger suite at considerably higher price, and can no longer be bought standalone.
EDIT: Here it is, at $149. https://www.alienskin.com/exposure/ I did use the standalone "bokeh" plugin at one time, and it was excellent at what it did.
Photoshop has a "Lens Blur" filter, but IMO it doesn't even come close. It's just not credible, you can always tell it's been filtered and not the genuine deal.
Thanks for explaining how it worked back in the day. I don't know why but I really like that kind of sharpness, it makes it sometimes creepy to see. Isn't there any other way to get it right?
The photo I posted earlier of Brad Pitt was really well done, here is another one of Pitt.
A really good example of a modern 1800s photo. Notice his lifeless eyes, slightly moving hands.
Yeah, I agree, this is very well done. They used all the tricks.
If you plan to do this a lot, I think I'd recommend the Alien Skin plugin. I've been thinking of re-purchasing myself (my old license doesn't do any good now). You really need the shallow depth-of-field effect, and that's the best way to get it. You'll still have to make the selections manually, of course.
Or if you shoot your own, use long lenses fully open. And if you can manage it, perhaps with very low light or neutral density filters, long exposures. I'm talking ten, twenty seconds.
I will maybe try the free trial of the Alien Skin plugin. I just hope there is a "free" way without any needs of plug-ins, but it is hard to find a good tutorial.
To create a convincing bokeh effect, some very advanced mathematics is required. As I said, it's an extremely complex optical phenomenon, far removed from a simple blur.
Hmm, the two book covers didn't look at all convincing as 19th century pictures to me. It was immediately evident that either they were modern pictures, post-1990, treated, or old pictures ridiculously over-restored (essentially remade). They are very fine pictures, which suggest the supposed era, and that might be what you want. But otherwise... most surviving pictures, made with unstable chemistry and stored for 130 years or more, are frankly awful. External shots are elaborately staged and stilted (see the horse picture in context on The American Civil War ). Most pictures are terribly bleached out in detail, and this is most likely decay of the chemistry. Pictures which were transferred to new technologies as early as possible, and retransferred, are likely to be the best: the civil war pictures are unnaturally good, but convincing.
It's a similar problem to trying to make digital video footage look "old". Old footage was shot on film and just looks different: experienced eyes can probably date it to the nearest decade. To someone whose watched a lot of it, no effects are convincing.
This is not a commentary on the project or the excellent comments, just on the difficulty of doing it and making it look REAL, especially to people whose eyes predate the digital generation.
Dag, are you talking about the Alien Skin plugin for bokeh or is there one does a stand out B&W ? I was wondering about Silver Efex seeing as it is free, although I understand that Google have discontued support for the NIK collection, and I believe it no longer works with some operating systems. A lot of the photo competition junkies I know, swear by Silver Efex, and say it is easily the best B&W conversion available.
Anyway, my take from this portrait. I'm sure I have done much the same as everyone else, but a biggie was to crush the dark and light tones with a Levels layer, and I am talking about _really_ crushing them
Noise was done with a 50% grey layer set to Overlay, and using Camera RAW > fx > Grain.
I couldn't use Camera RAW for thge vignette because I didn't want to use a copy merged layer, so a black layer with a blurred oval hole.
The President was lifted from the background so I could blr the background.
Distressed cracks from my large brush collection.
I'd have liked to spread a few tiny white distress spots and scratches, but I didn't have a brush, and couldn't find a suitable texture.
I was just after the bokeh effect here. The Alien Skin plugin originally did that only, now it's a function among many in the expanded "Exposure".
Crushing the blacks and whites that much is against all our current instincts, but that is in fact how the old film responded. There was a dynamic range of just a few stops.
However, there is no grain in these old photographs. Remember, these were often 8 x 10 negatives, contact printed.